Trust in public institutions is a vital component of democracy and development. It legitimizes governments and enables them to collect taxes and allocate resources without having to resort to coercion. Tracking trust over time is therefore of interest, not only from a democratic normative perspective but also from an economic material one.

Since 2002, the Afrobarometer has asked its respondents how much—on a scale from ‘0=Not at all’ to ‘3=A lot’—they trust different public institutions. By comparing the answers, we can track how trust in Mozambique has developed over the last 15 years.

Figure 1 plots the mean trust scores for six public institutions: the president, the parliament/national assembly (AR), the courts, the national electoral commission (CNE), the police, and the army. Note that in 2008, the Afrobarometer did not ask about the army, which explains why the grey, dotted line is interrupted.

Three things should be noted. First, trust in public institutions has declined since the mid 2000s. The trust score for all institutions has dropped and in most cases it is now below what it was in 2002.

Second, the six lines are almost identical, suggesting that the trust scores are inter-related. When the trust in one institution goes up, it pulls the trust in others with it.

Finally, the president consistently receives the highest trust score, while the police and the army consistently receive the lowest. In other words, although the trust scores are inter-related, it appears that people differentiate, and that they trust the president more than they trust the institutions through which he governs.

To further explore the data, we ran a series of pooled linear regression models. We limited the number of independent variables to five and included time and province fixed effects to reduce the effect of omitted-variable bias.

The results reveal additional patterns. First, older people have more trust in public institutions than younger people. The only exception is the courts, where the coefficient is negative. Second, people in rural areas have more trust in public institutions than people in the urban centers. Finally, more educated people have less trust in public institutions, while employed people have more.

So do Mozambicans trust public institutions? The answer would be somewhat, but their trust is declining and particularly younger, urban, and more educated people are distrustful.

The findings of this analysis resonate with the findings of our previous blog entries, pointing to a growing divide in Mozambican society along age, space, and education.

For further information, including acces to data and regression results, please contact Halfdan Lynge-Mangueira at hlm@sauti.net.